When the subject of the Dallas Cowboys is brought up people either love them or hate them. There is no in between when it comes to the Cowboys. The same can be said about Danny White. I became a fan of the Cowboys in the late 1970s when Roger Staubach’s Hall of Fame career was coming to an end. So growing up a Cowboys fan in the 1980s the quarterback I knew was Danny White and I quickly became a fan of his. I loved the way he played the game and I loved the way he led the Cowboys offense. But there are people who don’t think of Danny White as a great quarterback or even a good quarterback. They simply know him as the player who could not win the big game for the Cowboys and loser of three straight NFC Championship games. Danny White does not get the credit he deserves for his career with the Cowboys for the simple reason that he followed a legend in Staubach.
Wilford Daniel White was born on February 9, 1952 in Mesa Arizona. He graduated from Mesa Westwood High School and then moved on to Arizona State University where he played quarterback and was also the team’s punter. In 1973 Danny White was an All-American with the Sun Devils. For his college career White threw for 6,717 yards, 64 TDs and 42 INTs. White was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame as well as the State of Arizona Sports Hall of Fame and the Arizona State University Hall of Fame. In 2000 Danny White was named Arizona Athlete of the Century by the Arizona Republic.
Danny White was drafted by the Cowboys in the third round of the 1974 NFL Draft. White decided to give the World Football League (WFL) a try and played there in 1974 and 1975 for the Memphis Southmen.
In 1976 Danny White joined the Dallas Cowboys. He served primarily as Roger Staubach’s backup and also as the Cowboys punter. He would remain the Cowboys punter through the 1983 season. White was also a member of the Cowboys Super Bowl XII Championship team in 1977. Roger Staubach announced his retirement after the 1979 season and it opened the door for Danny White to become the starter.
In 1980 Danny White became the starter for the Cowboys and led them to a 12-4 record, but the Cowboys came in second place to the Philadelphia Eagles. White also broke the Cowboys single season touchdown record by throwing 29 touchdown passes in 1980.
Danny White led the Cowboys to a Wildcard playoff win against the Rams, 34-13. In the second round playoff game in Atlanta, White led a Staubach like comeback and beat the Falcons 30-27. With the Cowboys losing 27-17 with time running out, it was White who led the Cowboys to two touchdowns and won the game. The game was voted one of the top ten Cowboys games of all time by the fans. In the NFC Championship game the Eagles put an end to the Cowboys Super Bowl dreams as they won easily, 20-7. No fault should go to Danny White for the loss to the Eagles. The Eagles defense simply shutdown everything the Cowboys attempted to do on offense. Also, the Cowboys defense gave up 194 rushing yards to Wilbert Montgomery to go along with his 42 yard touchdown run.
Danny White once again led the Cowboys back to the NFC Championship game in 1981. In one of the most famous Championship games ever played, the Cowboys lost to the 49ers 28-27. Again, no blame should be placed on Danny White as he played an incredible game as he led the Cowboys to a 27-21 lead with a little more than four minutes to play.
In a strike shortened 1982 season White led the Cowboys to a 6-3 record and earned his only Pro Bowl honor. He also led the Cowboys back to the NFC Championship game for the third straight season. This time the Cowboys traveled to Washington where they would once again lose. White would not have the chance to finish the game as Dexter Manley came free through the middle of the line and planted White into the RFK Stadium grass. White suffered a concussion and was lost for the entire second half. The Redskins went on to beat the Cowboys 31-17.
With White being knocked out of the 1982 Championship game, it opened the door for backup quarterback Gary Hogeboom to play. Hogeboom threw two touchdown passes against the Redskins, but it was his second of two interceptions in the fourth quarter that sealed the Cowboys fate. There were stories about how White might be replaced as the starting quarterback by Hogeboom, but White remained the starter for the 1983 season. Danny White led the Cowboys to another 12-4 record in 1983, but lost to the Rams in the Wildcard round at home.
Tom Landry made the difficult decision in 1984 to replace Danny White as the Cowboys starter and handed the job to Gary Hogeboom. The Cowboys started 4-1, but after ineffective play by Hogeboom, Landry handed the job back to Danny White. The Cowboys missed the playoffs in 1984, but returned in 1985 as Danny White was once again the opening day starter. Once again the Cowboys came up short in the playoffs as they lost to the Rams again.
In 1986 the Cowboys opened the season with a 6-2 record and had the best offense in the NFL with Danny White at quarterback. During an away game against the NY Giants, White was slammed to the ground by Giants linebacker Carl Banks and White broke his throwing wrist. The injury ended White’s season and the Cowboys ended the 1986 season with a 7-9 record, which was their first losing season since 1965.
Danny White would come back from his wrist injury in 1987, but would battle quarterback Steve Pelluer for the starting job throughout the season. The quarterback battle would continue into the 1988 season. The Cowboys missed the playoffs in both 1987 and 1988. When Jerry Jones bought the Cowboys in 1989, the option on Danny White’s contract was not picked up and White decided to retire from the NFL.
Danny White ended his NFL career with 21,959 yards (3rd on Cowboys all-time list), 155 touchdowns (2nd on Cowboys all-time list) and 132 interceptions (also 2nd on Cowboys all-time list). His punting average with the Cowboys was 40.4 yards per punt. His record as the Cowboys quarterback was 62-32.
Danny White became the head coach of the Arizona Rattlers of the Arena League in 1992. He remained the head coach until 2004. While with the Rattlers he won the league championship twice in 1994 and 1997. He also led the Rattlers to three other championship games in 2002, 2003 and 2004 where he would lose. He was named coach of the year in 1993.
After leaving the Rattlers he became the head coach of the expansion Utah Blaze in 2006. He led the Blaze to the playoffs all three seasons he was with the team. White’s overall Arena League coaching record is 162-93, with a postseason record of 20-13. He was inducted into the Arena League Hall of Fame in 2002.
Danny White and his wife JoLynn have four children. They also have eight grandchildren.
Danny White deserves so much more credit then he gets for his career with the Dallas Cowboys. He was a leader for the team and made the team better when he was the starter. Following a legend like Roger Staubach must have been a hard thing for Danny White. Even coach Tom Landry once said…
“I don’t think anybody could have followed Roger and done as well as Danny”
“Danny is a solid Winner”